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Muscle Strain


A muscle strain is a twist, pull, or tear of a muscle or tendon. A tendon is a strong elastic tissue that connects a muscle to a bone. Signs of a strained muscle include bruising and swelling over the area, pain with movement, and loss of strength.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • You suddenly cannot feel or move your injured muscle.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your pain and swelling worsen or do not go away.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Muscle relaxers help decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Your healthcare provider may suggest that you have a follow-up visit before you go back to your usual activity. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


  • 3 to 7 days after the injury: Use Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE) to help stop bruising and decrease pain and swelling.
    • Rest: Rest your muscle to allow your injury to heal. When the pain decreases, begin normal, slow movements. For mild and moderate muscle strains, you should rest your muscles for about 2 days. However, if you have a severe muscle strain, you should rest for 10 to 14 days. You may need to use crutches to walk if your muscle strain is in your legs or lower body.
    • Ice: Put an ice pack on the injured area. Put a towel between the ice pack and your skin. Do not put the ice pack directly on your skin. You can use a package of frozen peas instead of an ice pack.
    • Compression: You may need to wrap an elastic bandage around the area to decrease swelling. It should be tight enough for you to feel support. Do not wrap it too tightly.
    • Elevation: Keep the injured muscle raised above your heart if possible. For example if you have a strain of your lower leg muscle, lie down and prop your leg up on pillows. This helps decrease pain and swelling.
  • 3 to 21 days after the injury: Start to slowly and regularly exercise your muscle. This will help it heal. If you feel pain, decrease how hard you are exercising.
  • 1 to 6 weeks after the injury: Stretch the injured muscle. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds. Do this 4 times a day. You may stretch the muscle until you feel a slight pull. Stop stretching if you feel pain.
  • 2 weeks to 6 months after the injury: The goal of this phase is to return to the activity you were doing before the injury happened, without hurting the muscle again.
  • 3 weeks to 6 months after the injury: Keep stretching and strengthening your muscles to avoid injury. Slowly increase the time and distance that you exercise. You may have signs and symptoms of muscle strain 6 months after the injury, even if you do things to help it heal. In this case, you may need surgery on the muscle.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.